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Importance of learning latin


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The study of Latin was the main subject of the grammar school curriculum, however pupils also studied Greek, grammar, logic, rhetoric, history, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. They did not devote time to studying modern languages or sciences.

Latin was important as it was still the international language of Europe and used in the professions of law and medicine and in the Church. It was also necessary for the proper practice of the Protestant Faith.

One textbook used during Shakespeare's time at grammar school was Lily's - Short Introduction of Grammar (first published in 1540). It was used in all grammar schools across the country and the pupils had to memorise its contents.

As the boys progressed through school and their Latin became more fluent they were expected to speak in Latin at all times and were punished if they did not (top right). As their grammar progressed they were taught to think and argue logically. They studied Erasmus's Colloquies which demonstrated the use of rhetorical figures, metaphors, word-play and patterned and balanced sentence structure.

Shakespeare was later to show how he benefited from the lessons with his extraordinary rhetorical skills, although he did not use Latin but his native language.

Boys left school at about fourteen, usually to study at Oxford or Cambridge. However, William did not go to University but went to work with his father, who was by then in financial trouble.

16th Jun 2005

English, History

Key Stages:
Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4, Key Stage 4+

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